It’s National Breastfeeding Awareness month, and an excellent time to evaluate some issues arising about breastfeeding and Black women. Statistics have shown that there is a widening gap between Black and White breastfeeding initiation rates. It moved from 24 percentage points in 2000 to 16 percentage points in 2008. As if this is not enough, Black infants have been discovered to have the lowest rates of breastfeeding initiation and duration. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’ states that only 62% of Black babies born in the US in 2010 started breastfeeding, compared to 79% of White babies. After six months, only 36% were still breastfed, compared to 52% of White babies. We need to take a look at Black mothers nursing in a historical context. “When blacks came to this country, they breastfed their babies and often [slave] masters’ babies,” said Monique Sims-Harper, director of A More Excellent Way Health Improvement Organization and a spokeswoman for the California Breastfeeding Coalition, “after slavery ended, black women often continued to work as wet nurses for white families.” They were the experts in the field. So the question arises, why black women have suddenly stopped breastfeeding their children?
In the African-American community, breastfeeding rates happens to be the lowest; these may be due to some reasons. In Los Angeles, Krystal Nicole Duhaney, owner of Milky Mama, the only lactation treats company owned by an African-American woman, it was noticed that improving the health of African-American mothers and babies require ongoing and collaborative efforts organizations and individuals involved in Black mothers’ lives, especially in areas where extended breastfeeding is not a common practice. She is passionate about breastfeeding for African-American babies. Breastfeeding can be difficult at times for all moms. Duhaney admits there were some difficult times, particularly when she went back to work with being consistent with breastfeeding. “When I returned to work after having my son, I noticed a decrease in my supply due to stress,” she says. But after getting armed with her family’s lactation cookies, Duhaney noticed her milk supply increased. Following the birth of her second child, a baby girl, Krystal was prepared to preempt any potential problems.
“After the birth a child, moms need support and guidance,” she says Duhaney. She wishes to bring awareness to the benefits of breastfeeding while also taking head-on the issue of shaming nursing moms in public. She is also empowering mothers to breastfeed their babies whenever and wherever, since it is an act of love and nutriment for their child.
With breastfeeding awareness and Black moms like Duhaney bringing awareness to nursing, the number of Black mothers breastfeeding their babies is expected to increase.